The mystery of the KAL-007

Izvestia Investigation, Andrej ILLESH, 1991. Found at Roy Cochrun's

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Report from the USA by Aleksandr SHALNEV. Part 3

I will first stipulate that the document in front of me (prepared by the Department of the Air Force) is not classified. In any case, it is not stamped as such. Also the very sincere and responsible people, who sent it to me, vouched for the fact that it was "harmless" in this respect.

However, although it is not stamped, in my opinion this document is explosive.

Allow me a small deviation. The American bureaucracy, including the military, is radically different from our bureaucracy in the way it feels about information and material gathered by newspapers and TV. Any it wants to classy, it classifies. And it does not need Congress' permission. (By the way, Congress classifies an enormous mass of its own material. It's true, however, that it later declassifies an enormous mass.)

"Secret," "Top Secret," "Confidential," "Restricted" (The Soviet version is Official Use Only. author). These are not only to protect information from unauthorized eyes. Not from spies, of course, but from the public. It is also a method of adding weight to the information and another ounce of authority to those who possess it. If I am not mistaken, it was George Schultz, Secretary of State under Reagan, who made a dark joke about the thirst for secret information: "If I compiled a report without a classification stamp, nobody would notice it. But if I put "Secret" on it, on the same facts and the same conclusions, then everybody would start hunting for it. First in line would be the media."

...I remember how Larry Speakes, Reagan's press secretary, aggravated by persistent reporters with whom he didn't get along, decided to teach them a lesson. He pretended to absentmindedly lay two pieces of paper marked "Secret" on his secretary's desk so they were visible from a distance. Half an hour later the information was being broadcast. The reporter believed he had outfoxed the competition and expected envy on the part of his colleagues and gratitude on the part of his editor. Instead, he was a wretched sight when he found out what had happened. There was nothing secret in that information.

As far as I know, there is nothing classified in this document, which is an radar operator's instruction manual prepared by the U.S. Department of the Air Force. It says that the purpose of these instructions is "To prevent inadvertent intrusion into Soviet air space by aircraft registered in the Alaska Region of NORAD(ARN) or the Alaska Air Command(AAC), or those under the operational control of ARN or AAC."

According to this document, adjacent to the so-called prohibited flight zone, the zone where according to the manual, American military aircraft risk being shot at without warning by Soviet Air Defense Forces, there is an Alaskan buffer zone. The coordinates of this buffer zone, according to the document, are: 58 degrees north latitude, 180 degrees west longitude; 60 degrees north latitude, 180 degrees west longitude; 65 degrees north latitude, 169 degrees west longitude; 72 degrees north latitude, 169 west longitude; 72 degrees north latitude, 167 degrees west longitude; 62.30 degrees north latitude, 167 degrees west longitude.

Special permission is required to fly through this buffer zone. This is required by the instructions of the U.S. Department of the Air Force.

According to one of the documents in my possession, a memorandum for members of Congress, the South Korean Boeing-747 flew about 200 miles within the buffer zone before it entered Soviet air space.

Was it detected by military radar?

Richard Kerr, Deputy Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, stated during a closed briefing in the Senate on 31 October 1989 that, and I quote, "military and intelligence services do not track civilian aircraft in the northwest region of the Pacific Ocean, except for responses to SOS signals and other emergencies.

The Boeing pilot did not send an SOS. This means that military radars did not track it, correct?

If we believe the deputy director of the CIA, the answer is no. But I would like to go back to the instruction of the U.S. Department of the Air Force concerning the buffer zone in the Alaskan area, where it covers the responsibilities of personal at the center for regional operations of the Air Force:

The operator is supposed to "track all aircraft detected in the buffer zone. If he feels that the aircraft is straying off course, or that it may enter the Alaskan "prohibited flight zone," the operator must immediately make an attempt to contact the crew of the aircraft by shortwave radio on frequency 121.5 Mhz (this is the emergency frequency. A signal on that frequency instantly "overrides" all other channels on the radio equipment used on the aircraft. author) or report to the nearest Federal Aviation Administration center, if the aircraft is a civilian aircraft."

In my opinion, this instruction does not leave any doubt. The Boeing-747 must have been noticed by the military radar operators, who should have either warned the crew that the aircraft had strayed off course and was dangerously close to a prohibited flight zone or informed the Federal Aviation Administration of the situation. The latter in turn should have taken control of the situation itself.

In addition, remember what I mentioned earlier. On the tapes deciphered by Lawrence Porter, there was evidence that the Boeing's deviation from its flight route had been noticed! In fact, civilian radar operators noticed it quite quickly.

(At this point, I am going back to the ICAO general secretary's report, to that section published in Izvestia no 28 as part of the investigation. Page 39, paragraph 2.10.2 says, "If the traffic controllers following the flight had known about such a significant deviation from the flight path, they would have taken corrective actions. However, they could only have learned of the deviation, if they had had some way to determine the aircraft's location other than the pilot's reports." The pilot, of course, reported that he was passing the checkpoints he was supposed to pass if he were flying the standard flight path. This passage in the ICAO report does not correspond at all with what Lawrence Porter later was able to get from the tapes recorded in the Anchorage air traffic control center.)

However, let's listen to the explanations given by American officials. At the same closed briefing where the CIA deputy director spoke, deputy assistant secretary of defense on intelligence, Charles Hawkins also testified. He said, "First, the armed forces intelligence services had no information about this incident, and were in no way involved. Next, military traffic controllers, as far as we know, had no knowledge of KAL-007. Third, the Department of Defense has no idea what, if anything, happened to the recordings made at the so-called minimal service radar station of the KAL-007. These tapes are usually kept for 60 days and then reused."

Instead of commenting on these statements myself, I will quote an staff memo that was distributed among members of Congress and was obtained by me from the Senate.

Let's touch upon our "in the first place." It states that the deputy assistant secretary of defense made a clearly false statement. "The Air Force Electronic Security Group No 6981, deployed at Elmendorf Air Base in Alaska, and group No 1690 at Misawa Air Base in Japan were the main intelligence collection units during the KAL-007 episode. It was specifically Air Force Intelligence under the command of Gen. Jim Phauts, which put together a very detailed report within 12 hours of the destruction of the plane. These report showed that the Soviet Union most probably shot down the plane by mistake, believing it was an RC-135 Cobra carrying out a spying mission. The statement that the Air Force intelligence did not have any information in its files on the KAL-007 cannot possibly be credited, unless, of course, the files have been destroyed."

(I am forced to intercede at this point, without of course changing the essence of my colleague's investigation. The fact is that in his interview with Izvestia, former Su-15 interceptor pilot Gennadij Osipovich admitted unequivocally, that there was no way he could mistake the aircraft he had been pursuing for almost an hour with the very familiar RC-135. Meanwhile, let my colleague continue his investigation - Andrej Illesh).

Now for the "in the next place." This statement by the Pentagon official contradicts the Department of the Air Force instructions as they relate to flights in the Alaskan buffer zone. And about the "in the third place." Why is it that the department has no idea what happened to the recordings? And if they were destroyed, then why? This is a question asked by the authors of the memo. "Who is responsible for the fact that they were erased?"

These recordings, extremely important for the Boeing story, which, as I understand it, were automatically made at radar stations with a minimum of attention on the part of the operators (thus the name of that station). They could have been evidence, which explained, at least partially, what happened to KAL-007 during its flight in the buffer zone and then in Soviet air space.

But where are these recordings? Most likely they have simply been destroyed. Just as a mass of other documents, which many American researchers believe was evidence that should have been subpoenaed by courts or the U.S. Congress.

Actually, the absence of clear evidence is one of the reasons why the lawsuits filed by the KAL-007 victims' relatives against the U.S. government h ave never actually made it to court. Incidentally, the lawsuit against the Soviet Government, filed four days after the tragedy never made it to court, either. I spoke to the man who filed this lawsuit against us. His daughter died over Sakhalin. The same one who called home from Anchorage (Izvestia investigation " no 29) because it was a family tradition to call home while on the road.

I will not identify this person, because he asked me not to. He believes it would be better if discussion centered around the entire organization he represents - the association of the KAL-007 victims' families - and not just about himself personally.

This lawsuit was delivered by a very long path - from a New York court, the the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then back through the same chain. The lawsuit was dismissed on the ground of the "sovereignty of the Soviet Union." Most other lawsuits failed also, even against the company that prepared the flight map for the KAL-007 crew. The only lawsuit that was accepted by the courts was the one against the airline itself. But I have already discussed this one...

I would like to say a word about another government official - James B. Busey, the Director of the Federal Aviation Administration. A number of Senators tried to get him to answer some very tough questions, particularly about the conversation between the traffic controllers that Lawrence Porter had been able to decipher and from which it was learned that the Boeing's deviation from its course and its approach toward the danger zone had been noticed.

"There is no evidence," says the FAA director in a letter he sent to Senator Carl Levine on 17 August 1990, "that this conversation ever took place (in the air traffic control center in Anchorage). The director continued, "There was nothing to indicate that the plane would enter Soviet air space."

It follows, I am certain, that even if all the Soviet bureaucracies connected with the South Korean airliner tragedy opened their files for inspection, there would still be many blank spots in the dark story of KAL-007. It will only be possible to fill them with American, South Korean, and I think, Japanese assistance.

...One of the theories that received wide circulation in the America is that the Su-15 shot down the Boeing by mistake, believing it was an intelligence aircraft. Within hours the U.S. Administration had information that made it possible for Washington to conclude that it had indeed been a mistake. However, knowing all this, the Americans preferred starting a powerful propaganda war with its main thesis that "The Soviets are barbarians." They intentionally and cold bloodedly kill people." And Moscow, alas, played along with the Americans in this campaign by hiding the truth instead of admitting it and explaining the circumstances.

(I have to interject another comment. Although, by agreement, Aleksandr Shalnev and I are conducting separate investigations, they are both within the framework of one newspaper - Izvestia. Therefore I will permit myself to remind the reader of some facts which, it appears to me, were already proven in previous publications. Specifically that Air Force Lt. Col. Gennadij Osipovich maintains that he thoroughly knew all the "silhouettes" of military (but not foreign civilian!) aircraft of potential adversaries. He had hundreds of intercept missions from Sakhalin airport against American military aircraft, and could almost recognize the faces of the regulars... Intelligence aircraft and their actions in the skies over the Far East are his profession. Apparently, he had mastered it for he was able to shoot down a giant Boeing with two missiles instead of the seven or more, which somebody somewhere calculated it would take with the kinds of missiles on Osipovich's plane. From where I stand, this means that although the propaganda war that flared up between Washington and Moscow in the fall of 1983 was based on ulterior motives, they were not those given above. I am in complete agreement with my colleague on one point. From the view point of the rest of the world, we lost the press battle to the Americans completely Andrej Illesh).

However, the United States made a mistake also. Military and civilian operators displayed incredible incompetence by not carrying out the instructions they were supposed to. This occurred in an atmosphere where public admission of such a mistake threatened extremely serious consequences for dozens of officials, including some very high-ranking ones. But more important were the hundreds of millions of dollars in fines which the government organizations would have been forced to pay as a result of lawsuits from the victims' families. Caught in such a situation, government organizations conducted, as they say here, a "cover-up."

I repeat that what is described in the paragraph above is a theory, one of many. Whether it is true or not we will only find out when the facts that governments today prefer not to discuss are finally told.

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